Ten Reasons for a New Foreign Policy

Rao VBJ Chelikani 

The invasion of Ukraine is a brutal reminder to us that it is high time that we radically revise our policies regarding our External Affairs and our defence preparations.  Though wars are going on in many other places as in Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Myanmar, etc. this particular war is an occasion to draw many lessons for us, as we are living, today in a globalised world and we are no more a poor country.

1. The wars hereafter are the most visible and open in terms of all damage and destruction that is taking place and the plight of the civilians is shown to the whole world as in a film. The states cannot make fake claims and false propaganda, except internally to some extent. This war is being vividly and dramatically recorded by the visual media, step by step, thanks to digital technologies, much more than during the 2nd world war. If any international tribunal wants, it would be easy to prove the crimes against humanity committed and also to estimate the damage and loss caused, for the purpose of estimating eventual compensation. Whatever might be the outcome, whether there would be, meanwhile, a ‘coup d'état’ in Russia or there would be a truce, it is certain that Mr. Vladimir Putin would be judged for war crimes and the Russian people would have to compensate for the damage caused to the Ukrainian people.

2.  It can already be asserted that none would think of starting or supporting a war hereafter, even for a just cause in the liberal democracies. The current generation of youth is beginning to entertain anti-war sentiments, as happened in the seventies in the context of the Vietnam war. Global social media, uncontrolled by any state, would reveal the reality. In future, only authoritarian states would declare wars. The youth across the world who have already low opinion on the vocation of the political leaders, would not buy the official statements issued by the state machinery.

3. Europe failed us once again, as war took place on the European soil, where already two World Wars were fought. Nevertheless, the strong desire among the European people to unite themselves in Union as people and not anymore as states and regions is reconfirmed, once more. Only Russian and Great Britain states are still unprepared to join in such an effort. It is once again proved that military security of each state is not possible and we should hereafter think of collective security.

4. When humanitarian issues are involved or when there is an imminent danger of nuclear explosion and radiation in any country, the world cannot ignore them as strictly matters of internal concern of a state, or a strictly bilateral dispute between two states.

        The failure of the UN bodies only confirms that it should succeed next time to intervene to reconcile or arbitrate or to use force, if necessary to fulfil their mission to protect the people who are the authors of the UN Charter. No superpower state can replace it. The UNO’s efforts for peace -keeping and peace-making should be backed and accompanied by autonomous military power and power to administer certain areas directly under Trusteeship in cooperation with its various Specialised Agencies and banks.

5. War against war is going to be old-fashioned thinking hereafter. It is possible now in this intimately and increasingly inter-dependent world to retaliate against a military power by weakening it economically. Pacific non-cooperation in economic, trade and financial matters by stopping all exchanges of goods and services is proving to be adequate as retaliation. There is every chance of this Gandhian approach being adopted universally in future not only by the strong but also by the small and weak states, provided there is an international consensus and cooperation. The losses incurred due to such non-cooperation with the evil, even for a prolonged period, in any case, are much less than the loss of lives, suffering, physical and mental trauma of any military effort. This ‘economic war’ strategy is being set up as a model by liberal democracies. States like China which aspire to be big power should learn that arms build-up and demonstration of force is not the only solution to solve their pending disputes with other political entities. The ‘apparatchiks’ of the Chinese Communist Party, who adopted export-oriented economic growth would be forced to revise their approach towards conflicts, particularly with their neighbours across the seas and across the borders.

6. We notice that a democratic country defends itself much better than a totalitarian or any state with ‘authoritarian governance, and sustains its resistance for a prolonged period, even though it might have been surprised initially. The mighty Russian army instead of performing a blitzkrieg in a few hours or days, is now dragging its tanks in the Ukrainian mud for weeks, unable to advance towards their primary target, as claimed initially. It is not easy anymore, for an organised army to fight and capture the human communities in their natural environment, whether it is the villages in the mountains or the urban agglomerations. This confirms what we have already seen in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Peru, Columbia, etc.

7. Defence preparedness in a democratic country should not anymore be a state secret, closely guarded by a few bureaucrats, diplomats and generals. The people should be able to watch and question the reality behind the state declarations beyond the official statistics of financial allotments in the annual budget, without it being considered as a seditious act. Despite having a long legacy since Peter, The Great and the Prussian traditions and being a ‘defender’ of the erstwhile Socialist World, the Russian forces revealed many hidden deficiencies. Less of hierarchy in the ranks and more of democracy in functioning are being considered to be the strong points of the Chinese and Israeli forces. Passionate participation for a just cause makes one a better soldier than the professional qualities of obedience to military protocols. Civilians of various professions should be able to participate in the defence preparations along with military professionals, especially in the era of electronic warfare.

8. Foreign policy in the past is defined and applied as a game of Balance of Power among the ‘sovereign’ states, which is being played only by the adept professional diplomats, outside the knowledge of the people, and even without involving many political representatives. This corps of diplomats is costing each country a lot of foreign exchange.

On the contrary, it is time now to name our 'diplomats' as goodwill ambassadors or ‘negotiators’ to promote people-to-people economic and cultural cooperation. It is to be the mission of not only the consulates and embassies but also of all civil societies to promote better understanding and cooperative attitude among all residents who, by sheer accidents of history find themselves separated by physical boundaries. There is a lesson to learn from the warmth with which the Ukrainian refugees in crisis are being received by the neighbouring families. Further, we can radically reduce the cost of maintaining our diplomatic establishments abroad in this electronic age and replace many of them by our Indian diaspora.

Our dependence to such an extent upon Russia and for such a long time is a surprise for many Indians. Both states have struck a cold political deal to accommodate each other’s military strategies for seven decades, with no corresponding growth in people to people relations. 

9. India’s claim to have a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and spending much money and much energy campaigning for it, without renouncing the veto power, proved to be a premature aspiration. Depending upon a single authoritarian state for decades for many military spare parts and equipment and having not trusted our own countrymen to produce and update the defence arsenal, we cannot pretend to be an honest broker for international peace. ‘Atmanirbhar’ would not come any soon by announcing new rules and regulations, but only by prompting private investments, internal research, development and manufacture of what would be needed for future electronic wars.

10.  Now, there exists a global public opinion and humanist ethos, which is expressing itself in different ways. The presence and actions of national and international civil society humanist institutions, movements and  organisations like the Red Cross, Green Peace and Human Rights Watch, Peace & justice cannot be ignored or silenced by any state however mighty it might be. All states, including India should accept to work with them pro-actively. Human beings are no more under absolute and unquestioned authority of any state. Further, International brigades of voluntary soldiers for a just cause are likely to be formed more spontaneously, than in the past when it happened very rarely as during the Spanish war against the regime of General Franco. We are seeing their beneficial presence in Ukraine. India would gain more goodwill in the international arena by allowing the abundant high-quality human capital of its social activists, scientists, academicians, artists, athletes, etc. to participate freely in international exchanges. 


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